Why Has Gen Z Produced So Few Prominent TV Stars?


Why Has Gen Z Produced So Few Major TV Stars? Gen Z TV stars appear to be on the wane as streaming subscriptions grow. Are Zoomers destined to avoid the small screen, or is something else afoot?

Time makes fools of us all. While Gen Z is still relatively young, it’s easy to assume the entertainment industry is rife with young, up-and-coming Gen Z superstars.

The reality is far different. There isn’t any hard data, polling, bar graphs, or percentages that throw back the curtains on the mind of the average Gen Z.

However, we don’t exactly have to guess either. Like many things that seem simple on the outside, the answer to the dearth of Gen Z representation in movies and television is multifaceted.

Of course, it is. Nothing concerning the predispositions of an entire generation is ever simple. If that were the case, we would already know the answer, making this writing an exercise in redundancy.

Ella Purnell Fallout Hero

The Odds Are Against Them

That’s not to say that the odds aren’t the same for other generations, but other factors also come into play, as you will see. According to Joan Rivers, “It’s feast or famine in showbiz,” and she’s absolutely correct. There are over 50,000 actors in America today, of which only a tiny percentage exercise their trade for a living.

Anya Taylor-Joy on Queen's Gambit

The rest are out of work, desperately looking for their next gig, or working elsewhere between potential gigs. It’s not easy to break through in the entertainment business, and it never has been.

Most people can probably name all the prominent actors and actresses they can remember on two hands. Balanced against a population of over 300 million, the number is infinitesimal. Most aspiring actors and actresses dip their toes in before quietly seeing their way out.

At that rate, it will take longer than time has allowed this young generation. Given another decade or so, this question may yet be answered.

Gen Z Is Still Young and Small

Generation Z, excluding Generation Alpha, is smaller than the Millenials and the Baby Boomers. Born between 1997 and 2012, the youngest have yet to reach their teenage years, while the oldest are in their mid to late 20s.

Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning on Season 3

Many Gen Z are still children, and while children sometimes make it to the small and big screen, it’s rarely with permanence. It’s more like a cameo appearance without the fame. More than an extra, less than an actress or actor. It is an open door, but not one often passed through.

With the oldest of Gen Z sitting at 27, there’s a way to go before we write them off as an underperforming generation in terms of being TV stars.

Besides, there are a lot of young names in more streaming series than is worth counting. We’ve probably seen some of the next best Gen Z actors without even realizing it.

X-Files is a prime example. For those who have seen all nine original seasons, there are several lauded actors throughout the run that you may not remember. Seth Green, Lucy Liu, Jack Black, Giovanni Ribisi, Luke Wilson, Ryan Reynolds, Shia LaBeouf, and Aaron Paul are just a few.

Who knows how many future Gen Z TV stars have graced our living room screens, wholly forgotten?

Gaten Matarazzo attends Netflix's "Stranger Things"

There is a Lack of Interest

Generation Z was born amidst the boom of mobile technology, raised with LCD and, eventually, OLED screens filing their eyes rather than the misty slopes of mountains and the curling churn of turquoise waves crashing against a shoreline.

The age of the smartphone changed everything, including habits and work preferences. Why struggle in an industry with less than a 2% success rate when you can sell your creativity on TikTok, YouTube, Vimeo, Rumble, Patreon, and many others?

Social media can make you a superstar overnight, but navigating Tinseltown’s politics is often a losing gamble. Nearly 50% of all content creators in the United States do so full-time. It’s a lucrative trade where the odds of success are more favorable.

Young, enthusiastic minds are more attracted to the outcome of joining the social media personality ranks. However, this may one day end in an interesting irony. Hollywood is well aware of social media’s allure for the younger generations.

Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark

Agencies are increasingly willing to tap into the talents of these content creators. These content creators are not just focusing on social media to pay the bills. They also consume social media content more than any other form of entertainment.

As Gen X and Millenials move into their twilight years and Gen Z continues to grow, from an economic and consumer standpoint, who is to say how these dynamics will change them and the entertainment industry?

There Are Major Gen Z TV Stars

Well, it all depends on what each individual considers “major.” According to Jodie Foster, who took a lot of heat for her observation of Gen Z’s work ethic, “They’re really annoying, especially in the workplace.”

Well, as it turns out, Gen Z may have a degree of antipathy for showing up early, but they are doing pretty well in the entertainment business. Ella Purnell is a fantastic example, starring in the new Fallout series after previous and ongoing roles in Yellowjackets, Invincible, Arcane, and Star Trek: Prodigy.

Fallout Vault Door

Anya Taylor-Joy is about to take over the world of Mad Max in Furiosa, rising to fame thanks to starring roles in The Queen’s Gambit and The Witch. Of course, every one of the young stars in Stranger Things is also from the Zoomer generation.

Isaac Hempstead Wright got his start at age 11 and is better known as Bran Stark in HBO’s (now MAX) Game of Thrones series. Dean-Charles Champman joined Isaac for the fourth through the sixth season as Tommen Baratheon.

Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams played the Stark sisters in the same series. As it turns out, Game of Thrones put several Gen Z faces on the map.

There’s also Asa Butterfield, Jacob Tremblay, Elle Fanning, Zendaya, Aidan Gallagher, Millie Bobby Brown, Tye Sheridan, and more Gen Z actors and actresses either starring in prominent roles or working their way up the ladder.

 Zendaya attends the 2022 HBO Emmy's Party at San Vicente Bungalows

The proverbial phrase, “patience is a virtue,” couldn’t be more apt. Generation Z is young yet full of aspirations of their own, some of which are related to the entertainment industry and some that may open the door to something wholly different. Perhaps even better.

Right now, Hollywood doesn’t seem to be the answer for Gen Z, at least not most of them. However, Gen Z appears to be the answer for Hollywood, judging by the latter’s pursuit of the former.

That phrase about patience? As it turns out, it’s not alone. There’s also the saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” Let’s wait and see what Gen Z has to offer before we mark them absent from TV entertainment.

Thomas Godwin is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow him on X

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